Let's Get Dirty
A gardening blog for adults who still love to play in the dirt.
Send stories and pictures of your horticultural adventures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Penny Stine
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
One crop that's really thriving this season is the bindweed.
It's in my flowerbeds, in my gardens and totally infesting my wildflower area. I was out in Palisade on Friday afternoon for a Peach Festival story, so I decided to stop by the insectary and buy a bag of bindweed mites.
The insectary raises beneficial bugs for local peach growers, and also raises bugs that do damage on invasive plant species, like tamarisk and bindweed. The bindweed mites are microscopic and live year-round. They go underground in the winter and gnaw on bindweed roots. Because they're microscopic, I didn't actually buy a bag of bindweed mites. I bought a bag of mite-infested bindweed.
According to the info from the insectary, the trick to getting a successful breeding colony of bindweed mites started is not to offer them red wine and non-stop Barry White music.
Instead, you're supposed to attach the bug-infested bindweed to the healthy bindweed in a small area and hope that the bugs migrate from the infected leaves to the tasty, tender and healthy bindweed leaves.
The instructions also say that the mites are most successful in areas that don't receive overhead sprinkling, as that tends to wash the little buggers away. So I spent 45 minutes attaching bug-infested bindweed to healthy bindweed with little twisty ties in areas of my yard and garden that don't get hit with the lawn sprinklers.
I found plenty of places. Also plenty of bindweed.
That was Saturday morning. On Saturday afternoon, it rained for an hour at my house.
Poor little bindweed mites... I hope they managed to hang on in spite of the downpour.
Although I'm hoping that a few managed to migrate before it rained and are now happily reproducing and procreating, I won't know until and unless I start to see deformed bindweed.
Who knew gardening would make me interested in the sex lives of microscopic bugs?
By Penny Stine
Friday, July 26, 2013
Just as Rene Descartes came to the conclusion, "I think, therefore I am," about himself, during this time of year, I cannot help but say, "I garden, therefore I eat."
Seriously, I grow things so I can eat them. I knew I had enough green beans to eat 'em for dinner last night, so even though I wasn't sure what else would be on the menu, I went out to pick green beans when I got home from work. Some were hiding, like the one in the photo on the left.
These are either Smeraldo or Algarve beans, both of which are Roma-style, long, flat pole beans.
I also saved seeds from last year, which means they could be the Kwintus variety, but I'm pretty sure I remember where I planted those particular seeds and it wasn't on this trellis.
These are seriously good green beans. After growing several different varieties of other bush and pole beans, I've learned my lesson. Stick to the Italian, Roma varieties. They grow like crazy and produce until it freezes. Plus, they're simply delicious, like nothing you can buy at the store. They freeze pretty well, too. They don't taste as good after freezing as they do right after picking, but they're better than frozen or canned beans from the grocery store.
And some of them are easy to find, especially when they're kind enough to grow so conspicuously.
While picking beans, I discovered I had a few more things that were ripe and should be picked, so I filled my basket.
I think I ended up with Thai and cinnamon basil, two Indian cucumbers, a yellow sweet pepper, purple and green broccoli sprouts, a bunch of green beans, some rat's tail radish, and a couple of tomatoes.
Once I brought the tomatoes inside, I discovered they weren't as ripe as I thought they were, so those got left in the basket on the counter.
Everything else went towards dinner. I grilled a salmon fillet that had been in my freezer for countless ages, added avocado, lemon juice, a peach and a couple other miscellaneous items from the fridge and tossed it all together for an extremely satisfying salad for dinner.
I can't grow lettuce here in the Grand Valley to save my life. Mine was always so bitter and nasty that I gave up after last year. But after eating my garden salad last night, I thought, "lettuce schmettuce... I don't need no stinkin' lettuce to make a salad!"
By Penny Stine
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Every year, I try a few weird things just because I can. This year, I ordered two different cucumber seeds from Baker Creek; Poona Kheera and Sikkim.
Here's Poona Kheera:
Although the peel is extremely bitter (so we don't eat it), the cucumber itself is quite tasty. The plant is fairly prolific, too.
This is an heirloom variety from the Poona region of India.
But check this out...
This is the Sikkim cucumber, an heirloom variety from the Sikkim region of India.
Gee, it looks just like the Poona Kheera!
Actually, the Poona Kheera might be the Sikkim, and the Sikkim might be the Poona Kheera, but the important thing to know here is that these were supposed to be two different types of cucumbers, since I used seeds from two different packets.
I have no idea how far Sikkim is from Poona, but obviously, the cucumbers of each region get along just fine.
I also have lemon cucumbers growing somewhere, so I guess I'll have a lot of yellow cucumbers this year.
Next year, I'm going to read the small print when I order seeds and do more research before I order!
By Penny Stine
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
I posted pics of the various trellises I'm using in the garden this year a couple months ago before anything started growing, so I thought I'd post an update. This trellis was supposed to have tomatoes on one side and green beans and malabar spinach on the other. A couple of the tomato plants are growing like crazy and starting to get quite a few green tomatoes on them. The beans are looking pretty good, too.
Since one of the tomato plants on the west side of the trellis died, I planted cucumbers, but they haven't started to climb yet.
And neither have these...
According to the seed catalogs, this malabar spinach was supposed to take off once daytime temperatures reached 90. They reached 90 in June and the plants didn't take off. Then I thought that perhaps they'd grow quickly when we had that week of higher than normal humidity and afternoon rain.
They still didn't take off.
I'm beginning to think they're just not going to do much in my garden.
Has anybody else ever tried to grow malabar spinach in Colorado?
I am kinda pleased with the way my pallet trellis looks. I was going to get a second pallet and put it up next to it, but since I had so many wire tomato cages, I decided to plant cucumbers in the middle of the cage and see if they'd climb that. They did, with a little encouragement from me.
The green beans that I planted on the rear side of the pallet and the additional cukes I planted on the front side needed no encouragement to climb.
Now I'm just trying to keep them from choking out the peppers that I put in the front of the box.
I'm also pleased with my coat rack. The beans are doing exactly what I wanted them to do, and I think it looks pretty cool.
I just hope the coat rack doesn't fall over - it is leaning more than the Tower of Pisa.
By Penny Stine
Monday, July 22, 2013
Back in May, I went to Denver to help my son work on a landscaping project in his front yard. The lawn of his house is elevated about three feet above the sidewalk, and the slope used to be covered in grass, which was difficult to mow.
We were too cheap to terrace it, so we put edging around the perimeter of the lawn, did our best to rototill up the grass on the slope and bought a few perennials and annual flowers that self-sowed to fill the slope with flowers.
It didn't look like much when we finished, since we bought tiny little perennials and seeds are difficult to see once you've scattered them.
I've been pestering my son to send me pics of his yard, which he finally did.
This sunflower hedge was his idea - he wanted both amaranth and sunflowers. I did a lousy job of scattering the amaranth seed, since it's all concentrated in one area. We bought about six different packs of various sunflower seeds. I think this will look very cool when they're all in bloom.
We also threw down some wildflower seeds. My experience with wildflower seeds is that they look good the first year, but then the diversity gives way to a whatever flower establishes itself as the most dominant. But that's OK, it doesn't require mowing.
I think this is a cherry brandy rudbeckia plant that we bought when we did the lawn makeover. It's really pretty. I may have to get one for my yard.
In addition to the sunflower hedge along the side of the house, my son also wanted to plant sunflowers in front of the house, right next to the steps going up the sidewalk leading to the front door.
The sunflowers will continue to bloom like crazy until it freezes. I told him he'd probably wish he didn't plant them when he has to pull up all the stalks and clean up the bed in the fall, but at least they're pretty for now.